I hold a monthly group meditation. At the beginning of each meditation, I ask the group to go within or to turn their attention to the inside and check in with their body. We might spend some time scanning or noticing different parts and how they interact with the environment. For example, I might say, “Notice the pressure of your feet on the floor.”
Always, I say, “Now say hello to your body and see if you get a response back.”
In general, we spend a lot of time in our minds, meaning we think a lot. When you check in with your body, you start to notice different, sometimes new things. Even though I have spent a lot of time, doing different techniques, to be more present with my body. I fall into this trap too.
For over a year I have had difficulty with a shoulder, which means it hurts sometimes and along with that hurt, it doesn’t move quite the way it needs to. This limitation has led to other things in my body bothering me. Now, I’m trained in injury treatment, so my mind got busy.
I did self-treatment with a ball and S-hook. I heated and iced it. I did exploratory movement. I stretched it as much as I could. To my surprise, I started noticing how naturally I was adapting daily activities to compensate. I found myself in a frustrating wave of improvement and detriment. Overall though, it was showing some improvement in a way that was encouraging, so I kept at it.
I realized, though that I needed help. I went to other practitioners. I was pretty sure I knew what was wrong and with varying levels of success, I did get help. Things got even better but I was still frustrated because I couldn’t find someone who was able to effectively do what I knew I needed and meet the frequency that I knew I needed.
During a monthly massage with an amazing, nurturing, and skilled practitioner she asked if I wanted some work to my shoulder and I confessed that I knew I needed it, but I really came to her because her work reminded me of why I wanted to be a massage therapist. My heart was yearning for nurturing touch that spoke to my soul and told me I was okay; bum shoulder and all. But yes, please, stick your fingers in my armpit. As she did, I told her what I thought I needed and what I had done and what wasn’t working. There were tears in my eyes.
She suggested trying out a lot of different therapists to see what each would do, how they would approach the situation and as an added benefit it would give me a great referral base for clients if I needed to refer out. It’s actually a great idea for a therapist to do and it’s one I may do soon, but not while my shoulder hurts.
As I let the suggestion roll through my mind, my body started to speak. I asked it what was up, and I felt fear. I felt vulnerable. I realized that my body didn’t want to endure a lot of different touch that it was uncertain about. It didn’t want me to gamble on this. My body needed more than anything to feel safe and nurtured. My nervous system needed support and it needed it something other than direct, ‘feel good pain’ to be whole again.
I reached out to a friend and got a referral to someone who did work like that. Someone who probably wasn’t going to stick her fingers in my armpit no matter how much I begged and wanted but someone who would hold the gentle and slow space to allow my nervous system to let go of the fear and the guarding. I made an appointment and my shoulder started to improve before I saw her as other parts of my body began to respond and thaw with some gentle, curious, exploratory movement I began to allow instead of demand. My body was starting to trust me more.
I saw this new person for the first time today and she held me softly and gently, but securely, while she moved my arm and did other things. She invited me to notice my body both with her touch and verbally. My body trusts me a bit more because I finally listened. My shoulder feels more a part of me. The whole side of my body feels integrated, elongated, and expanded.
Tonight, I was able to reach behind my back and take my bra off with both arms for the first time in months. It’s not fixed, it’s not perfect, it is so much better. I feel throughout my body some new sense of hope and connection, it’s like rebuilding a bridge between parts of myself. Another practitioner once told me that I needed to welcome back in wounded parts of myself and this was a version of that. I was supported in that welcoming, in becoming whole. I share that story a lot with my clients in hope that it will spark something in them to be kinder, more gentle, and welcoming to the disparaged parts of themselves.
My mind was wrong about what I needed. I had been turning in for so long to what my mind thought that it drowned out the sound of my body and what it truly needed.
I believe that is true for a lot of my clients as well. We live in a world that likes to solve problems and when our bodies offer up pain and dysfunction, it’s a problem, so we look for a fix, something that makes sense, something our mind says sounds logical, or right. But the truth is that can bypass the wisdom of our body and result in maintaining disconnection. It’s like putting all the blame on a child that is getting in trouble and not addressing the family dynamic that feeds into it.
Years ago, a practitioner changed my life when he said, “I think you know your body best.”
It’s taken all those years, a lot of work on my part, and some great patience and grace from a few others, for me to realize our minds don’t know, our bodies do, and most of us are listening to our minds and we must learn to attend to our bodies in a new way so that we can hear them again.